Do dreams have an expiry date?

Musings on everyday life


Suresh Pattali

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Published: Thu 28 Dec 2023, 9:12 PM

Half dreams, Half career. They make the northern and southern hemispheres of my universe. If I'm not dreaming, I'm working. The thin line, or the equator, where the two halves meet represents my life. A tightrope walk it is.

A question that I frequently face and refuse to answer, or am unable to explain, is that if an imperceptible yet soul-filling career spanning over 40 years cannot manifest my dreams, what else can they? Most of these questions typically revolve around my age. Isn't it time to slow down? Now that you have such a cute grandson, isn't it time to be with him and drench yourself in a shower of unfeigned love?

But what has age got to do with dreams? Dreams are not pro tanto. They are spontaneous. Like a leaf in a flowing mountain stream, stopped at times by rocks and then carried forward by an avalanche of desires. A recent peep at wifey's phone screen showed job notifications from German universities.

"How come you get notifications from German and British universities?"

"Because I signed up."

"Signed up for what?"

"I was looking for a job as a Sanskrit teacher."

"You just retired, didn't you? You had a brain surgery recently, didn't you?"

"Dreams have no retirement, mister. Nor do they have an expiry date."

She sounds right. Now that her son is a German citizen, she thinks dreams don't need a Schengen visa. I get that. Her dreams also whisper into my ears as I struggle to grab some sleep after a hard day's work in the newsroom.

"Can't I go back to Singapore and work?" she asks as I go back to sleep without explaining. She has every right to dream.

"Raat baaki," she would murmur.

Strange are the ways of the human mind. Dreams will be the last occupants to vacate the house after life quits your body. While my partner is clear about her late-life dreams, I never had a desire to own anything, let alone dreams. It's the experience, not owning, that matters. Dreams are a feeling that's so intoxicating. My childhood dream of owning an Enfield motorbike is still unfulfilled. There was a time when having a Royal Enfield bike with a beautiful girl in the pillion was every Indian man's dream. My heart still dances to the high exhaust note of the Classic 350, but I never bothered to own one.

Some dreams are not meant to be realised. They are better kept on a pedestal as a beacon, as a north star that will make you purposeful in life and help you in character building. They will have an infinite shelf life.

Dreams are not about wanting to become a doctor, an engineer or a journalist, not necessarily in that order. A profession is just a means of feeding and clothing you; while dreams are a philosophy that encompasses all those inexplicable feelings that make you delirious. If life is a garland, dreams are its petals, in different hues and fragrances that permeate your inner shelf.

As dreams are an inner need, an auto mechanism to keep men happy and occupied, they vary from person to person. Friends fondly call me a dream merchant, which I am not. There are no goods in my Santa sack. In fact, I'm a vagabond in search of dreams. At times, I want to go and catch the falling stars. I want to travel like reckless Ulysses with boundless curiosity and undaunted spirit, like I did the Himalayas with a damaged heart. There are times when I want to go back to my old campus and flirt with all the female teachers who I had crush on.

“Let your dream run wild. Let your dreams come true.” Such New Year wishes don't make sense to me anymore. I do not let my dreams run amuck. I let them toddle in my backyard before letting them graze unbridled in the meadows and mountains. For me, every dream is like a newborn which needs to be loved and caressed. It's the ecstasy of rearing a dream, like barrel-ageing the best wines of the world, that gives me the real kick.

Life has taught me that a cherished dream is much sweeter than a realised one. Like my Royal Enfield which never made it to my garage. Such unrealised dreams offer eternal pleasure. The ecstasy of a never-ending wait would dissipate once you managed to realise them.

That brings me to the final question: What's my dream, after all? The blood-thirsty 2023 has brought the curtains down on my life-long wish for unfeigned love which, according to leadership coach John G Corrigan, is long-suffering, is kind, is not envious, is not boastful, has no agenda, is not easily provoked, is not malicious, does not rejoice in wrongdoing but in truth, bears all things, accepts things as they are, hopes eternally, and endures all trials.

As I watch the sun setting on a beach littered with carcasses of unrealised dreams, counsellor Arpita handholds me to look for shiny pebbles in the loose shingles. She asks me to start with a few moments all unto myself, or a small walk alone in the woods, or a few strokes on a blank canvas. Today, I'm the toddler, not my dreams.

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